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    Donna’s Chronicles, “Our holiday season ended with a unique adventure…”

    By Donna Sachet–

    Our holiday season ended with a unique adventure…our first personal road trip with our little puppy Peanut. As some of you know, we are not often found behind the wheel of a car, much to the relief of those who have witnessed my driving skills, but we rented a sturdy four-door Nissan and hit the road a few days before Christmas, heading to Dallas, Texas, where our dear friends Richard Sablatura & Norm Claybaugh recently relocated. The word “adventure” hardly describes the event. With a few weeks to reflect upon it all, we have come up with three conclusions and will herein share them with our readers.

    First, the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but going straight has never been our modus operandi. From the very start, our route was circuitous. We find something claustrophobic about driving over a bridge … those narrow lanes, the edges of the bridge itself, and the barriers between us and oncoming traffic, so our first priority was to avoid bridges, a priority that was quickly sidelined since the only rental cars available in the area were at the Oakland Airport.

    Then, in order to elude winter weather, we drove as far south in California as feasible before heading east. We immediately found Peanut to be the ideal passenger, if not a particularly participative co-pilot; she slept comfortably in the passenger seat, only occasionally edging towards our lap, eventually situating her head and front paws there. Having driven through California and then east to the edge of Arizona, we chose our first night’s lodging in a nondescript motel in the small town of Needles.

    Having more experience with at least two-star hotels, we found the accommodations stark, the walls thin, and the exterior noise persistent, as did Peanut. Every audible disturbance elicited barking or growling, simply her way of serving as our bodyguard, but not conducive to restful sleep. Finally, in the pitch black of night, the front desk called, telling us that unless we could control our dog, they would have to ask us to leave the premises. Really! We waited for no more communication and simply packed up and returned to the highway at 2 am. And so began a series of driving segments, broken by naps in the car at rest stops along the way, a couple more attempts at motel lodging with similar results, and truck stop breaks to stock up on energy bites, i.e. junk food.

    Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas were a blur, carefully guided by our trusty Apple map, alternating blasting dance music, and

    local radio stations with self-styled monologues and total silence. The proximity of Dallas came as a great relief, achieved by no straight line, but a curving stop- and-go path with lots of stamina. Sounds kind of like our life.

    Second, we now know, as never before, that traditions, especially associated with holidays, must be malleable and that where we are and what we are doing are never as important as with whom we share our time. The aforementioned Richard Sablatura has become one of our closest friends and his departure from our daily life in San Francisco left a tremendous gap. Not working together on Songs of the Season, not attending with him Help is on the Way for the Holidays, the SF Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert, Golden Girls drag show, and so many other events led to a somewhat disjointed holiday season, but took us in different directions and opened up time shared with different people, thankfully.

    But being in Dallas with Richard & Norm for Christmas, gossiping about San Francisco and touring the Dallas Gay scene, exchanging gifts on Christmas morning under their traditional tree in front of a roaring fire, sharing meals and hearing of their new life, and witnessing Norm’s remarkable recovery process and Richard’s incredible support of his partner, all of that made for a refreshingly new holiday season. Beyond the seemingly endless driving and frequent frustrations along the way, we are so happy to have made the decision to visit them on their first Dallas Christmas. Our friendship could not be stronger.

    Third, motor vehicles are inherently one of the most dangerous things in the hands of almost anyone, capable of causing immense harm and even loss of life, forever changing the lives of the driver and all those with whom that driver comes into contact. As we whiz along these 8-lane superhighways at speeds often exceeding 75 miles an hour in our 2-ton mechanical cages, even a moment of distraction can potentially result in disaster. For every carefully law-abiding driver there are others who take every opportunity to skirt or disobey clear laws, simply out of a desire to get to their chosen destination sooner.

    Oftentimes, this carelessness transforms into bravado and sometimes road rage, adding tremendously to the potential for tragedy. Our most treacherous moments came on the final leg of the trip as we encountered heavy rain and wind from San Jose into San Francisco. As visibility decreased, driver patience seemed to follow. As an infrequent driver, we found our grip on the wheel growing tighter as passing cars spewed splashes of water in their wake, trucks barreled through multiple lanes, and petulant drivers flashed their headlights or honked their horns to assert their importance.

    Thoughts of pulling over to wait out the incessant inclement weather were stymied by the fear of changing lanes, slowing for an exit, and finding no safe haven. Never have we been so conscious of the importance of safe driving nor so appreciative of the skill and care of those Uber, taxi, Muni, trolley car drivers, and friends who generously get us from place to place. We encourage you to acknowledge careful drivers and to resolve today to take extra precaution on the roads. An additional moment of concentration, a simple act of patient kindness, or mere adherence to traffic laws may save lives and prevent needless sorrow.

    So, without getting too much into the nitty-gritty of a 50-hour round-trip trek across America, we offer these conclusions. Even if available, don’t be tempted by the straight line when the crooked route may present more insight. Even if comfortable, perhaps long-established traditions merit examination and cherished friendships may warrant dedicated time and trouble. And even if getting to your destination is the most important thing at the time, don’t make cavalier decisions that will have dire consequences. Not the conclusions our readers may have expected from our trip, but please give them each a little thought. May they guide you into a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2022!

    Donna Sachet is a celebrated performer, fundraiser, activist, and philanthropist who has dedicated over two decades to the LGBTQ Community in San Francisco. Contact her at empsachet@gmail.com

    Published on January 13, 2022